Conservation tool or threatening process? Management implications of interactions of cattle with vegetation and land at the Vale of Belvoir reserve
Tengia, B and Taylor, M and Kirkpatrick, J, Conservation tool or threatening process? Management implications of interactions of cattle with vegetation and land at the Vale of Belvoir reserve, Ecological Management and Restoration, 17, (2) pp. 147-151. ISSN 1442-7001 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2016 Ecological Society of Australia and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd
A recently purchased private reserve of high conservation value has been grazed in summer by cattle since the early nineteenth century. We ask whether the cattle are causing continuing damage and whether they are necessary to maintain any conservation values. We used five-year-old exclosures to determine the effects of cattle on wetland vegetation, mapped damage to soils and landforms and mapped cattle dung deposition in relation to the distributions of rare and threatened plant species. Cattle impacts on wetland plants were minor. Cattle damage to landforms by pugging and bank collapse was frequent near unfenced water bodies. Rare and threatened species were largely on well-drained ground, while cattle dung was concentrated in wetlands and near water bodies. We conclude that cattle grazing is impacting some conservation values and is not necessary for conservation purposes. Destocking should be accompanied by careful monitoring of threatened plant populations. If necessary, alternative planned disturbances can provide regeneration niches for rare and threatened plants.